A family court judge has praised two parents who ‘put aside personal conflicts in the context of gross international ones’ after a father living in Ukraine withdrew his application to have his children returned to Kyiv.

Deputy High Court judge Dexter Dias KC’s judgment was delivered in private with an approved version published as part of the transparency in the family court initiative.

The family of four lived in Kyiv when Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The mother, identified as SW, and children fled toward the Slovakian border while the father, identified as NW, stayed in Kyiv as he did not wish to leave his parents.

SW successfully applied for the UK’s ’Homes for Ukraine’ scheme. She and the children arrived in April 2022 and in September the mother issued divorce proceedings in Ukraine. The following month, the father applied under the Hague Convention 1980 for the summary return of the children.

Dias said: ‘The father reassessed the changing circumstances following the issuing of proceedings and sought permission to withdraw his application. He has been living in Kyiv. He knows very well what is happening around him.'

The judgment, highlighting media reports as well as government travel advice, said ‘the court must do the best it can’ in assessing the risk levels in ‘Ukraine generally and Kyiv in particular’. 

Dias said: ‘There would be grave risk of physical harm to the children if they returned to Kyiv. I find no protective measures or package of protective measures that would ameliorate or mitigate that obvious grave risk of return to the capital. Presently Kyiv is unsafe for them.’

Granting the father’s application to withdraw his application, Dias added: ‘This is an acutely fact-specific risk assessment about the safety of two children amid a troubling, complex and ever-evolving international conflict involving two sovereign states on the other side of the continent.

‘At the same time, this case shows how responsible parents can put aside personal conflicts in the context of gross international ones in the best interests of their children. The father deserves a great deal of credit for putting his children first, despite his desperation to see them again after so long. The mother wishes to record that she welcomes his child-focussed approach.

‘I wish him and all the family well.’